Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, introduced the TSA employee rights bill.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, introduced the TSA employee rights bill. Susan Walsh/AP file photo

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A TSA Employee Rights Bill, Another Shutdown Mitigation Bill and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

A Senate Democrat last month introduced legislation that would grant employees of the Transportation Security Administration expanded collective bargaining rights and access to the General Schedule wage system.

The bill (S. 944) by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, would grant employees at TSA full Title 5 civil service protections, including access to the Merit Systems Protection Board, official time and salaries on the GS pay scale. Currently, TSA workers are on a graded “pay band” system, and union employees must wait until they are off duty, or take leave, to work on representational matters.

The legislation mirrors a similar bill under consideration in the House. The Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act (H.R. 1140) was introduced by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., but has not yet been voted on in that committee.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., introduced legislation (H.R. 2133) Monday that would protect a number of agencies that are technically part of the federal government but serve local purposes from shutting down in the event of a lapse in appropriations.

During the recent 35-day partial government shutdown, a number of federal agencies serving only Washington, D.C., were unfunded and employees were furloughed or forced to work without pay. Among the agencies that closed were the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, D.C. courts, the D.C. Public Defender Service, the district’s Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, the Judicial Nomination Commission and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

All of these agencies receive a significant portion of their funding from the federal government, because of the 1997 National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act. Since the 2013 government shutdown, Congress has approved a measure exempting other aspects of D.C.’s local government from being subject to a lapse in appropriations, although that did not extend to agencies related to local courts.

“These are criminal and civil justice agencies whose focus is exclusively on District of Columbia matters but are funded by the federal government,” Norton said in a statement. “As a local jurisdiction, the District is a bystander to the federal issues involved in shutdowns and should not be caught up in congressional shutdown fights.”

The bill joins a host of measures introduced this Congress attempting to mitigate the impact of future shutdowns. Some bills seek to implement continuing resolutions automatically if lawmakers cannot agree on how to fund the government, while others seek to exempt some functions of government from appropriations lapses. A number of bills also would provide financial relief to impacted federal workers, from blocking financial institutions from imposing penalties for missed payments to allowing employees to take interest-free loans and other withdrawals from their Thrift Savings Plan accounts.

A law providing back pay to furloughed federal workers related to time they were home during the shutdown that began last December included a provision that would guarantee back pay following any future shutdown.